Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cardboard Clothing

Small cardboard replicas of clothing made from household scraps and held together with flour past and string. The more time I spend with the work of James Castle, the more I think the only other 20th century artist who consistently rendered fabric successfully with similar rough illusionism was Matisse. True, Matisse was the beneficiary of a long, refined European pictorial tradition, in contrast to Castle, born deaf and probably autistic, living an isolated life in rural America and never learning to speak or sign or lipread or even to read or write. That these two contemporaries, sharing no common influences and inhabiting worlds that never remotely intersected, should have ended up with such similar strategies for representing textiles is a fact that makes me scratch my head, with no idea how their projects came to parallel one another.

Castle mixed his own ink (a combination of soot and spit) and then applied lines with sharpened sticks rather than brushes. For color washes he used wadded-up rags for application after bleeding the needed pigments from existing manufactured sources such as crepe paper or gift tissue. Sometimes he added crushed crayon to the mixture and occasionally used crayons directly, but refused pencils.